2012 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals Preview: Miami Heat

| by The No Look Pass

Beat Indiana in the conference semifinals, 4-2.
Beat New York in the first round, 4-1.
Seed: #2 (East)
Record: 46-20
Stat Leaders: LeBron James (27.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.9 SPG), Joel Anthony (1.3 BPG).
Opponent: #4 Boston Celtics, 39-27
Record Against Them This Season: 1-3
Writer: Diego Quezada (@DiegoHeatNBA)
Web Site: Hot Hot Hoops

The Miami Heat survived the Indiana Pacers after a rough-and-tumble series. However, they lost Chris Bosh in the first game. But the Heat roll on against an even more beat-up team, the Boston Celtics. With Surya Fernandez on vacation, I asked his Hot Hot Hoops cohort, Diego Quezada, about the Heat's playoff run so far.

The Heat had a rather tough series with the Pacers. Did you underestimate the Pacers or did you expect them to be this tough?

I originally picked Heat in 5, but I didn't expect Chris Bosh to get injured in the first half of Game 1. (And I still think that if Bosh was healthy, the Heat wouldn't have lost Game 2). Miami certainly let Game 2 slip away -- LeBron James missed two free throws, Dwyane Wade missed a layup -- and got blown out in Game 3 in part because of quite possibly the worst game from Wade in his nine-year NBA career. But the Heat beat the Pacers three straight times thanks to the great play from James and Wade and timely contributions from members of the supporting cast. Udonis Haslem knocked down clutch shots in Game 3, Shane Battier made a few 3s and defended David West well in Game 4 and in Game 5 the Heat got a nice scoring boost from Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers.

The Pacers let a few opportunities slip away in this series, though. Indiana had an advantage on the inside increase when Bosh got injured, but never really exploited it. Roy Hibbert had 16 field goal attempts in Game 3, but didn't get more than 10 in any game after that. Too often the Pacers tried to beat the Heat from the perimeter, which was a mistake.

Do you think LeBron and Dwyane can keep up their exceptional performances? They've been rather superhuman as of late.

James and Wade can keep up their performances in the conference finals. For one, it's important to note that Paul Pierce is playing with a sprained MCL and Ray Allen looks like a shell of his former self now. The loss of Avery Bradley hurts Boston tremendously because he could have guarded Wade in the series. Now an injured Allen will try to keep up with Wade when the 2006 NBA Finals MVP runs the high pick-and-roll and goes into the post for a couple jump-hooks, and I expect Wade to have a great series. Allen did hit two key 3s in Game 7 last night, but he's not running all across the court any more; he's just coming off one screen now. As a result, Wade won't have to work as hard on defense as he did when these two teams met last year.

As for James, I also expect him to dominate his match-up against Paul Pierce, who is really playing on one leg. The three-time MVP was finally able to beat the Celtics in the playoffs last year, and did hit two crucial 3s in Pierce's face in Game 5 of that series. He and Wade have played in complete sync these past ten quarters, and I expect there to be those same hard cuts to the basket for easy points. The Wade/James pick-and-roll -- which Spo went to as soon as the Pacers cut the Heat lead to six with two minutes left in Game 6 of the second round -- could also be lethal this series.

There may be no Chris Bosh again in this series. Is this team capable of winning the title without Bosh?

The Heat need Bosh to win the championship. Miami should beat a banged-up, old Celtics team without Bosh, but the Thunder and Spurs are two great teams.

The Heat draw the Celtics. Tell me a few keys for the Heat to beat them in this series.

The No. 1 key for the Heat is to contain Rajon Rondo. Although Chalmers had a good series on offense against the Pacers, he didn't play well defensively. He couldn't keep up with Darren Collison and committed a lot of unnecessary fouls. Miami could trap Rondo after some pick-and-rolls to get the ball out of his hands, but the Heat big men need to recover to an open Kevin Garnett or Brandon Bass if Rondo makes the pass. On the other side of the coin, the Heat could start forcing some turnovers and getting fast-break points.

On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that the Heat can advance to the Finals. The Celtics are quite beat up at this point in the season.

I'd say an 8. My pick is Heat in 5. If the Heat win the first two home games and go up 2-0, they'll be in great shape. Then the Celtics will be forced to win four out of five against the Heat to win the series. These two teams will play every other day for as long as the series goes, and Doc Rivers will have to play his starters big minutes. As I said before, I expect Wade and James to play great. The Heat will just need Battier, Miller and Chalmers to make a few 3s. Anthony (defense) and Udonis Haslem (mid-range shooting and rebounding) also need to have big series for the Heat to overcome the absence of Bosh.

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